Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘fear

Gestures

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We were traveling in the car to a village called Clarens for the weekend.  The kids’ grandparents have been visiting, and Spectrummy Daddy thought his parents would like to go to this artists’ haven in a valley in the Free State surrounded by mountains.  I agreed, because I thought is sounded like heaven for all of us.  It was.

But we were late setting off.  I had a work event that day which included Spectrummy Daddy getting hit in the face with a whipped cream pie (I have a weird job).  The event had run late, and then with picking up the kids and getting stuff ready for a weekend away…later still.

We finally set off and hit all the rush hour traffic.  I was getting panicky, because much as Johannesburg has street lights and paved roads, that wasn’t going to be the case where we were headed, and this just isn’t a safe country to be driving at night.  Especially with all the men-folk in a different car with the GPS.

Actually, we did have Cubby with us in the beginning, though I’m not sure he counts as a man yet.  He wanted to be in the girls’ car at least.  As we crawled along in the traffic, I noticed Pudding was the wrong kind of quiet.  I looked back and her face confirmed what evidence supported a few seconds later: she was car sick.

Pudding has been car sick a few times before, but this was bad, and it was already getting dark.  We found a small shopping center off the motorway, cleaned up as best we could, changed clothing, and allowed Cubby to switch back to the boys’ car, which had become much more appealing by virtue of being vomit-free.

Traffic was even worse as we got back onto the motorway.  We inched along, and with cars cutting in and out, were positioned further away from Spectrummy Daddy and the rest of the gang in the boys’ car.  I was trying my hardest to keep their car in sight.  I knew how vulnerable we were without a GPS, especially as it got darker and harder to navigate.

I was more concerned with Pudding getting sick again, and kept checking my mirror to see that she was still okay.  I barely had time to react as a white car swept in from the side, almost hitting mine in his attempt to enter the motorway.

I was furious.  Already upset from the turn our trip was taking, this car had almost caused us an accident before we’d even left the city limits.  But feeling vulnerable already, I tried to keep the road rage in check, I brought the car to a halt so it could enter in front of me without hitting.  I didn’t need to lose what was left of my cool. 

But the man in the white car had turned back to me and was gesticulating, but I didn’t understand what he was saying.  He is saying words too, but I can’t hear them, and the movement of his lips means nothing to me.  I doubt he is speaking English.  

Then he started clapping at me…but slowly.  The hairs on the back of my neck were raised.  He is starting something!  We’re stuck in this traffic, and this guy is trying (and succeeding) to intimidate me!

Or is he?

I can’t understand his gestures AT ALL.  Is he being apologetic?  Does he feel bad that he almost crashed into us and is saying so, but there is a cultural divide?  Is it possible that the slow clap could not be sarcastic?  And a woman is in the passenger seat, maybe I’m getting this wrong.

So I don’t react at all.  I don’t smile.  Or nod.  I don’t shake my head.  I keep my eyes focused ahead as though I’m oblivious.  The traffic is bumper to bumper and not much safe space to manouever myself anywhere, but if he stops, if he is going to get out of the car to hurt us, I’ll pull off onto the hard shoulder and speed my way around.  I’m mentally prepared for highjacking.

But for now, I just need to remain calm and alert.  I don’t need to overreact.

Yet this man seems desperate for my reaction.  He won’t stop with his gesturing and clapping.  Then his wife gets involved, doing the same thing.  And it is dark, and I’m not sure where I’m going, and my kid is sick, and I can’t see my husband’s car, and I’m scared and WILL YOU PEOPLE JUST STOP TRYING TO PROVOKE ME???!!!

And then the wife works it out.  I don’t understand!  So she tries a different gesture, and I breathe a sigh of relief as she chooses a thumbs-up sign, one that even a white western woman like me would be able to understand.  

And I do.  With a large smile I return the symbol, and the man and his wife do the same and we are all smiles and thumbs and nobody gets hurt.  We move on.  Slowly.

We crawl on into the traffic and a night that gets darker and darker.  I have hours of driving to reflect on the incident with the white car and my reaction to it.  I wonder if this is how it can be for Pudding- when you struggle to understand body language and gestures, when communication is both basic and foreign at the same time, does she feel this afraid?  Does she misinterpret smiles as threats?  If an olive branch looks like a loaded gun- how do you ever trust this world enough to make relationships in it?  I’m profoundly aware, once again, that if I faced Pudding’s challenges, I would be curled up in a corner and refusing any interaction.  She takes my breath away with the simplest of actions.

When we finally get there, it is Pudding’s turn top be anxious.  She won’t let me go out of sight in this unfamiliar place.  I try to calm her with my words, and then abruptly realize that she won’t be able to interpret them if she is already feeling vulnerable.

So we climb into bed together, and I offer her my hand.  She recognises the gesture, and moments later falls asleep, her hand still holding mine.  One sweet gesture at least, we both share and understand.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Making the Leap

with 16 comments

The following story is unbelievable, but true.   As you’ll see, I didn’t have any eye-witnesses, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Pudding and I were cuddling in bed.  Two days earlier I’d taken a pregnancy test, and it was positive.  She was 20 months old, and had a lot of energy.  I knew the pregnancy would be at risk for the first trimester due to complications following Pudding’s birth, so I was trying to take it easy.  Spectrummy Daddy brought some tea for me, and milk for Pudding, then kissed us both goodbye as he headed for work.  She and I had a play date with a friend later that morning, but we were in no hurry, so I planned on lounging in bed for a little while.

That wasn’t to be, because after a few minutes she got bored and ran out of the room.  I put my tea down and went to chase after her, but she slammed the door, and I heard the tell-tale click of a key being turned.  We often locked our bedroom door as Pudding had a penchant for going into our room while I was in the bathroom, and pulling everything out of the drawers.  The lock was pretty stiff though, and we’d thought she was unable to turn it. That day I learned we were wrong.

I ran to the door anyway and tried it, but of course, it wouldn’t budge.   I asked Pudding to turn the key, but she was unable to do it, though she tried.   She started pulling on the door handle, and when she couldn’t open it she got upset, and began calling my name.   I tried to reassure her, even though I was panicking myself.  It was before 8 am, and Spectrummy Daddy wouldn’t return until almost 6 pm. I didn’t have my phone with me.  My friend would probably just text if I didn’t show up at the park, she wouldn’t have been too concerned by a no-show.   I looked at the door, and there were no visible hinges, even if I’d had a screwdriver in the bedroom, which I didn’t.   There was no room under the door even if I could get the key out.

I was trapped.

I decided to get dressed.  At least I was locked in my own bedroom, it could have been worse.  I sang songs to Pudding to keep her entertained, and close to the door. The safety gate wasn’t closed, and she had access to the entire house, and all the dangers contained in it.   The thought of Pudding falling down the stairs, or getting the sharp knives from the kitchen filled me with dread.  Staying in the room was not an option.

I had to get out.

I opened the windows and looked for help.   There wasn’t a soul in sight.  A few minutes passed and I saw a car.  I leaned out as far as I could, and waved and screamed…..but the car drove on.   I waited a few more minutes, but there was nothing.   Pudding was very much in the throes of separation anxiety at the time, and she kept grappling with the door, but every once in a while she’d wander away, and I’d have to beg her to come back to where I could hear that she was safe, even if I couldn’t see it.

Lux before you leap!

I returned to the window.  I don’t have a photograph of that side of the house, but we were on the top floor, there was a level below that, and the basement/garage below that.  The yellow arrow shows the height of the window, but I’m unable to show you the actual drop.  Three floors.  I knew that was the only way out, but I felt sick every time I looked at the drop.  I’m not scared of heights, but I was pretty sure that leaping out there would mean the end of the pregnancy, and probably a few broken bones too.

The windows were full length, but had a safety rail across, almost like a balcony, but with no room to stand.  I put my hands on the bar and willed myself over.  I couldn’t do it, I stepped back.  Maybe we could wait for somebody to come by, I’d be no use to Pudding anyway if I was hurt and we still had no way of getting back inside.  She moved away from the door again, oblivious to my pleas.  The street was still empty.  I cursed again the logic of housing us in such a quiet place, with nothing but wasteland to the side of us.  I knew I’d have to make the leap, but I had to find a way to do it as safely as possible.

I had a brainwave.

I remembered those escape movies, where the prisoner manages to flee from his cell by tying sheets together- I would do that.  I put on some shoes, stripped the bed, and knotted the duvet cover to the sheet, then tied it to the bars of the safety rail.  It reached down to the ground.  It wasn’t much, but it was the best I could muster.  There was no way of knowing if it could take my weight.  I told Pudding that Mummy was coming, and hoped rather than believed I was telling her the truth.

Then I used the sheets as a rope to abseil down the side of the house!

The sheets held my weight.  I still can’t believe that they did (they probably wouldn’t know!).  I jumped the last bit, and landed on my feet.  There was no time to revel in the safety of solid ground.  I raced around to the other side of the basement where there was a small window.  I pushed it with force I didn’t know I had, and it swung open.  I climbed inside, and ran up to my last hurdle: the door between the basement and the entry level.  We usually kept it locked, but we’d forgotten.  I almost screamed in relief.

I ran upstairs calling Pudding’s name, and found her still on the other side of the door.  We hugged, and I didn’t let go until the pounding of my heart abated.  I called Spectrummy Daddy and regaled him with my adventures.  Then I had a cup of tea, pulled the sheets back in, removed the key, and got ready for our play date.  In spite of a few twists and turns, a healthy Cubby was born 9 months later.

I’m not surprised that he is my cautious child.

Sometimes I feel just as scared that I can’t get to my girl.  I have to leap to reach her over, and over again.  I haven’t felt solid ground yet, but somehow the sheets are holding me.

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If you haven’t seen it already, one of my posts is up today on the SPD Blogger Network.  Check it out here.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 15, 2011 at 7:31 am